The back porch view is an enchanting one. My vantage offers a 7 acre swath of green and lush outlying landscape nestled beneath a dense, oak canopy. Rays of sun and specks of blue peek through tangled branches towering over a wild lawn now blanketed with moist, brown pollen swept down with the recent rain. It sticks to your feet and gets tracked in the house, but no matter. Spring is here. The leaves have quit falling. Let's celebrate that.
If you want to look for a bright spot in the great recession, this is it.
At least for me.
The blossoms on the azalea are done for, but the gold lantana and red bromeliad are ripe with bloom. Fresh, green growth sprouts from the base of tender plants feared lost with the winter frost.
This is my room with a view. A place to enjoy a morning cup of tea or a candlelit dinner, complete with lively conversations about work days and school days and bickering over whose turn it is to do the dishes. A place to work out a problem or maybe pound out a column. A place to simply take in — and be thankful for that.
But the view, I'm afraid, is a borrowed one. We knew that going in. Our humble plot is of the postage stamp variety. Only one of the oaks is ours. Beyond our border lies commercial property.
So we weren't all that surprised when a couple of years ago, this patch of woods was sold and slated to be cleared to make room for medical buildings, complete with man-made retention ponds and new saplings to replace the 200-year-old oaks that were to be chopped down. Men came out to walk the property and spray orange, fluorescent paint on the thick trunks. Some of us went to a couple of County Commission meetings to speak for the trees. A few concessions were made, but in the end, we knew the bulldozers would be coming. Couldn't be helped in this strip mall state where development is driving the Florida panther to extinction; where "pave paradise" is interpreted as a directive rather than a lyrical criticism.
But then the economy hit the skids.
The great recession swooped in. A new "For Sale" sign went up in our little woods. The bulldozers were kept at bay. Movement ceased and the birds kept chirping.
Rejuvenation abounds, I know, as a mother cardinal tends to her chicks in the low-lying nest she and her mate built in our jasmine-covered arbor. Squawking blue jays are a concern, but seem oblivious, setting their sights on the backyard feeder instead and dive bombing the squirrels and the cooing mourning doves, who are quick to give up the seed and depart. Kings of the bird world, those jays are — until the red-tailed hawk or the barred owl, whom we've fondly named "Shakespeare," swoop in to scope out dinner and remind us all of their predatory place in the food chain.
All becomes quiet then. As with dusk's approach, movement stops. The birds cease chirping and the squirrels stop their scolding till all you can hear is the steady sound of cars rolling down a well-traveled road. Who would know until then that Old County Road 54 lays hidden just beyond the narrow glade?
It's a mirage of sorts.
Even so, this is a forest of princess' proportions — a hundred-acre wood if you want it to be. A medieval place where brave knights battle dragons or a Scottish glen where fairies lurk amongst the ferns. It could be the land of Davy Crockett. Hobbits could run wild here. So could Harry Potter and his ilk. The interloper's imagination, too.
I like to think about the people who walked the native's foot path before Ponce de Leon or the Florida Cracker; those who foraged, hunted and fished at the nearby Anclote River or set up camp and found sanctuary in these woods, as I have.
In the real world come stirrings that economic recovery is on the horizon.
Something to celebrate?
Right now I'm just grateful for my borrowed view; this sanctuary of the centuries left standing for a time, with a recessional reprieve.
Michele Miller can be reached at miller@sptimes or at (727) 869-6251.